Analysis: Schedule tougher from here
OXFORD, Ohio – Connecticut is far from an elite opponent.
But when a team has struggled to earn wins in recent seasons as Miami has, a dominating sweep can do wonders for a program.
The RedHawks blew out the Huskies, 7-1 at Cady Arena on Saturday to complete a series sweep. Miami outscored UConn, 10-1 for the weekend.
Connecticut (2-5-1) is 51st in the way-too-early-to-take-seriously PairWise, and Maine – MU’s opponent last weekend – is 54th.
So Miami went 3-1 vs. teams in the lower tier of Division I. The RedHawks were 0-2 against a Providence team that’s ranked seventh.
MU is presently 49th itself, which is in the bottom 20 percent.
Some really good things happened this weekend. Ryan Larkin returned to form. The power play continued to excel. The RedHawks played much better defensively, holding UConn under 20 shots both nights.
As mentioned previously, the RedHawks (3-3) needed to get back to .500 heading into their NCHC slate, which they did. But the level of difficulty will amp up substantially from here.
Up next for Miami is a rejuvenated Colorado College team in the RedHawks’ league openers, with both games in Oxford.
Then comes the North Dakota trip.
The RedHawks have shown can light the lamp against mediocre teams, but we’ll find out a lot more about this team’s make-up in the coming weeks.
– The key timeframe in this game was late in the second period when Connecticut scored to cut its deficit to one and Miami’s response early in the third period. Miami had dominated to that point but led 2-1 entering the third period up with the Huskies holding the momentum.
– I give Coach Enrico Blasi his staff a lot of credit for their coaching in the third period. Holding leads has been an issue in the past, and the RedHawks came out with five goals to put it away. Blasi also distributed ice time very well in those final 20 minutes, allowing almost every skater to log power play time. Beyond that, a frustrated UConn team took some dumb penalties out of frustration and tried to drag Miami into confrontations, but the RedHawks answered with goals instead of fisticuffs. There are times to engage opponents in that manner, but up a handful of goals against an inferior opponent is not one of them. Just in case, Blasi sent tough guys Conor Lemirande and Ryan Siroky out late.
– Along those lines, surprised the Huskies mailed it in after Miami made it 4-1. UConn led the RedHawks impose their will on them the remainder of the game.
– There have been very few players in recent years who have started their Miami careers slowly in terms of points and just suddenly blown up. Gordie Green is one of them. He tallied four points his first 17 games but has 28 points in 25 games since. Not in any way comparing these players, but Ryan Jones and Andy Miele are two of the only players in the Cady Arena who have taken off in similar manners their sophomore seasons after pedestrian rookie campaigns.
– Where was everyone? The announced attendance was 1,863 but even that seemed high. It was 1,894 on Friday. There was almost no student section either night. Word is there were several Halloween parties, but Miami has drawn just fine the final weekend in October in the past and everyone knows parties in Oxford start well after the final whistle at 9:32 p.m.
FORWARDS: A. The power play was especially brilliant, and it was inspiring to watch some of the passing and stickwork. Eight of the 12 forwards recorded at least one point. Freshman Casey Gilling was 13 of 18 on faceoffs.
DEFENSEMEN: A+. All six were solid all night. UConn managed just 18 shots, and not many were high quality. And what an offensive outburst. Louie Belpedio scored twice and assisted on another. Grant Hutton, Scott Dornbrock and Chaz Switzer picked up a helper each. Switzer had looked tentative at times in previous games, but this was a solid performance for the lone sophomore in this corps.
GOALTENDING: A-. The shorthanded goal was a quality shot that would’ve required an above-average save by Larkin. He faced a few more Grade-A chances but stopped them all. Like Friday, the rebound control was excellent and he played with confidence.
LINEUP CHANGES: There were none. All 19 skaters-plus-Larkin from Friday were back on the ice Saturday. Blasi has typically let competition play out on the ice early in the season and solidified his go-to lineup card in January, but he seems pretty well settled in most spots already.